January is mental wellness month! Mental wellness includes your emotional health, mental function, and ability to handle stressors. Body image is also an important component of mental wellness. Having a healthy body image means you accept and like the way you look right now, acknowledging all that your body does for you, and that you know you are valued (Ackerman, 2020).
Body image has four components: perceptual, affective, cognitive, and behavioural. Perceptual body image is how you see your body, as sometimes we have a distorted perception and perceive how our body looks differently than others do. Affective body image is how you feel about how your body looks, or the amount of (dis)satisfaction you have towards your appearance. Cognitive body image is how you think about your body’s appearance. Behavioural body image is the way you behave as a result of the former three. If your behavioural body image is suffering, you may be engaging in disordered behaviours like restrictive eating and exercising excessively. These behaviours can lead to more serious conditions, like an eating disorder (National Eating Disorders Collaboration, 2011).
Positive body image means you have the ability to accept and appreciate your body. It doesn’t mean thinking you have no insecurities. A positive body image means you can acknowledge insecurities and don’t get hung up on them, where they interfere with your day-to-day life.
If your body image could use improvement, some activities to help are (Ackerman, 2020):
Identify positive qualities about yourself unrelated to how you look
Practise using positive affirmations toward yourself
Set goals based on your abilities and feelings rather than your weight or clothing size
Avoid comparing yourself to others
Many of these principles relate to the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement. HAES strives to celebrate body diversity, challenges assumptions, and promotes compassionate self-care (HAES, 2021). HAES is committed to respecting the vast diversity of human bodies and is built on the foundation of trusting oneself. HAES believes that feeling shame about your body because of its size is a damaging, out-dated mindset.
It can be very challenging to change what we have been raised to think and believe, but coming from a perspective rooted in trust and compassion towards our bodies allows for an open mind as to what a healthy body image really is (HAES, 2021).
Ackerman, C. E. (2020). 3 Positive Body image activities & worksheets. PositivePsychology.com. Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/positive-body-image/
HAES: Health at Every Size [HAES]. (2021). Retrieved from https://haescommunity.com/haes-connections/
National Eating Disorders Collaboration. (2011). Factsheet: Body Image. Retrieved from https://www.confidentbody.net/uploads/1/7/0/2/17022536/nedc_body_image_fact_sheet.pdf